Review of Rohingyatographer Magazine, Issue #1/Summer 2022

Posted on: May 23, 2022 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Refugee humanitarians

Updated 5-24-2022

Review of Rohingyatographer Magazine, Issue #1/Summer 2022

Quick summary
In a hurry? Here’s the executive summary. If you are at all interested in the lives of Rohingya people living in the world’s largest refugee camp from an inside perspective get a copy of Rohingyatographer Magazine NOW.

My copy of Rohingyatographer.

Reading through this issue, you will be transported to Cox’s Bazar and touched by the rich stories each photograph tells. My advice is to languish on every word and each photograph, to allow your mind and imagination to learn the tragic and yet inspirational stories of these Rohingya refugees.

Rohingyatographer Magazine: a review
As a humanitarian operating on the margins of the sector, it has been my goal to learn about those most affected by the many human tragedies unfolding around the world. According to the UNHCR, currently there are now approximately100 million people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes and 20.7 are refugees under UN control. Of those refugees, more than 6 million live in refugee camps.

Nearly one in six refugees living in camps under the UNHCR mandate are the Rohingya. Of these, most are victims of a genocide perpetrated by the Myanmar military in 2017. I have been writing about and with Rohingya for several years and, most recently, co-taught an online course with both Rohingya and Bangladeshi learners. Even though I know a good deal about the realities Rohingya refugees face, I learned so much more by reading this inaugural issue of Rohingyatographer.

Founded and edited by Sahat Zia Hero, this first issue of Rohingyatographer contains 142 beautifully presented pages with over 165 stunning color photographs, many with short biographies of the subjects. Other contributing photographers include Ro Yassin Abdumonaf, Azimul Hasson, Abdullah Chin Maung Thein, Hujjat Ullah, Md Jamal, Shahida Win, Enayat Khan, Md Iddris, and Omal Kahir.

The arrangement of the photographs in order from youngest to oldest subject is inspired and gives the reader a subtle but highly effective structure for understanding and learning from each photo and the magazine in toto. Most photographs are close up portraits though many have ample background providing a clear story-telling context.

For those just beginning to learn about the Rohingya, perhaps this magazine should come with a trigger warning. One image shows a massive scar from a Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) bullet, another the face of a rape victim, and yet another a young man clutching the barbed wire that circles the refugee camp. Stories of genocide and displacement are not easy to tell, so all our thanks must first go to those willing to be photographed. But experiencing these stories even second hand as a reader can be jarring for some.

Paged through thoughtfully and slowly this magazine will give the reader a good overview of the Rohingya crisis. The intent of this issue is to disclose, describe, and amplify the identity of each subject, each chosen to tell a crucial chapter of the Rohingya story. Importantly, there is a solid balance of males and females as subjects, and an observant reader will learn a great deal about men and woman at various stages of life.

Publisher’s overview
Here is a description from the publisher:

“Rohingyatographer is a unique photography magazine published twice a year and produced by a team of talented Rohingya photographers based in the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. The first issue of Rohingyatographer deals with the subject of identity through intimate recordings of the daily lives of a displaced community. This collective portrait explores themes of memory, hope, aspirations, faith, beauty, craftsmanship, grief, love and loss among the Rohingya refugee community.

The photographs featured in this magazine are displayed chronologically—from the youngest baby of 2 months to the oldest man aged 102 years, forging a narrative that honours the strength, endurance and resilience of the Rohingya people.

This is a non-profit initiative. The income generated is reinvested in the production of the next issue of the magazine. The project aims to promote self-expression and skills development through the medium of photography. It provides the Rohingya youth with a creative platform, enabling the Rohingya community to be known not just for their marginalization, but for their creativity, talent and aspirations for the future.”

My final thoughts
It’s the eyes that capture and transport you. I found myself fixating on the eyes of each subject, searching for a connection to their story, their soul, each wrinkle framing these windows into the interior of each man or woman. I will be recommending this magazine to my students next year and as well to my humanitarian colleagues around the world.

The plan is for Rohingyatographer to be published twice a year, in June and December. I very much look forward to Issue #2, though I am not sure how the editors will be able to top this first effort.

You can read more about this first issue at Rohingyatagrapher.org. More importantly you can order copies in printed or ebook format from the publisher Blurb.com by clicking here.

Tom Arcaro

Tom Arcaro is a professor of sociology at Elon University. He has been researching and studying the humanitarian aid and development ecosystem for nearly two decades and in 2016 published 'Aid Worker Voices'. He recently published his second and third books related to the humanitarians sector with 'Confronting Toxic Othering' published in 2021 and 'Dispatches from the Margins of the Humanitarian Sector' in 2022.

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